America invaded, a hunter & his dog on a mission behind enemy lines somewhere in Colorado.
By Christian Powers
Hell found me. If he hadn’t, I probably would have lapsed into a hypothermic coma and never woke up again. As it happened, I woke up to his snout nuzzling my face.
I lifted my head up out of the snow. Hell licked my cheek.
My right elbow throbbed something awful. I wiped the snow off my face with my left hand and looked around. The world rolled and spun – a kaleidoscope of snow, rocks, pine trees and pain.
I groaned and shut my eyes, moving my hand up to my aching head.
They’d been shooting at me from the air, some kind of attack helicopter. Last thing I remembered was jumping over some rocks near the edge of the cliff and trying to grab at another big rock to stop my slide off the edge. Must have slammed into it pretty hard, hit my forehead and knocked myself silly.
Damn, that meant I fell off the cliff. So why was I still alive?
Pushing up to sit, I felt drunk, frozen-numb all the way through, but sick to my stomach from my pounding head and throbbing elbow. I thought it might be broken. Damn thing felt broken.
I sat there in a big drift of snow trying to collect myself. Hell licked my face again.
I checked my body for bullet holes, no blood and nothing hurt but my forehead and right arm. I checked my legs. They seemed okay, too. Felt like logs more than legs, but I could move them good enough.
"...'at a boy, Hell, 'at a boy." I stretched out my good arm and stroked his back. He licked and nuzzled me, as if happy to hear my voice. I surveyed the area for soldiers as I was petting him. They'd be coming to finish the job if they thought I survived the fall.
Realizing with a start Brunhilda was gone, I checked all around for a few frantic seconds. 'Course she could have been right under me with all that snowfall, so I postponed the search.
After my sudden movement, Hell pulled away, bounding backwards through the drift. He wagged his tail, whined and gave me one bark to get me moving.
"Shush...I'm coming, damn ya."
I looked up at the cliff and gasped. The ledge was higher than the sugar pine I’d landed under, had to be over a hundred feet.
“Holy mother o’…” I turned to Hell. “You see that crap, boy? I shoulda’ broke my freaking back!”
Hell barked. He had a long run down the hiker’s path from the peak to come and fetch me. How he ever found me after that was a miracle. Smartest dog I ever trained, but even that didn’t quite explain it. Maybe it was just luck.
I sat there with my mouth hanging open and gawking up at the massive height of that cliff-face, wondering how in the Lord's name I hadn't met Him already.
Maybe that was luck, too. I noticed a hole above me that went right up through the tree, and I was sitting on a bulky pile of fresh snow and broken branches. That tall sugar pine with its snow-laden limbs must have broken my fall. Probably broke my elbow too, but I counted my blessings.
Hell barked again.
"Shush up I told you." I pushed to my feet and tried to move my right arm. "Damn!" I cried out. It hurt too much to bend into a sling, so I decided to just let it hang.
I looked up for any sign of the helicopter and scanned the area for soldiers again. Nothing, just snow covered pines and lots of big rocks. I was glad I hadn't landed on one of them.
The rumble of their convoy echoed in the distance, an endless line of tanks and support vehicles were still travelling up the pass.
I needed to get moving. I kicked around in the snow, searching for Brunhilda. Last time I’d seen her she’d been in my hands as I slid toward the edge of the cliff. I hoped I hadn’t left her up there.
Hell barked several more times. "Shush, dog, you're gonna get 'em after us again. You want that?"
Then a thought occurred to me. I pulled a few rounds out of my belt and offered them to Hell. He crept forward and sniffed at them, thinking maybe I had treats. Hell was a shepherd-mix, not a bloodhound, but he was a trained tracker. Still, I wondered if this would work. "Find Brunhilda, Hell." He sniffed the bullets. "Go get it, Hell! Go get it!"
Hell circled around me in a sniffing frenzy trying to pick up a scent. "Good dog! Go get it!"
I searched too. I needed that gun.
Hell stopped on a big drift and yelped. He started digging.
I laughed my fool head off. "Good boy, Hell. Good dog!"
I pulled Brunhilda out of the snow and checked her. She seemed right as rain. I loaded her up and shouldered her. Then I started running for Maker's Watch.
That helicopter had chased me off my perch on the peak, but there was more than one place to shoot from on this mountain. I had to get to that spot before their convoy crossed the bridge.
I hugged the tree line and stayed off the road. Plowing through drifts and crashing through snow-covered brambles, I ran until I saw the entrance to the tourist overlook. I was soaked in sweat by the time we got there. I crossed the road, looking out for vehicles, including for helicopters this time.
It seemed like I arrived at Maker's Watch in the nick of time. I could see the smoke of their diesel engines against the snowy mountainside. They hadn't started crossing yet.
This would be a long shot. It would have been a hard one to make with a good elbow. Brunhilda was up to the task. I just wondered if I was.
I set up on the stone wall at the front of the parking area, bipod extended, scope adjusted to long range and my hood pulled over my head to block the light. Worse part was locking down the recoil buffer. There’d be one hell of a kick, but it wouldn’t make the distance otherwise. I’d never shot her without the buffer, never had the need.
Hell took up post, patrolling behind me, and guarding my back just like he’d been trained.
I contemplated my injured shooting arm. It needed to be bent and I figured it might be best if I used the 'band-aid' technique. So I got myself all set up in position, grabbed my right hand and wrenched it up in the air.
"A-a-ah! You filthy son of a...!" I'm fairly certain my curse echoed clear across the valley. Unfortunately, it hadn't worked. The arm wouldn't bend.
I would have to make the longest, most important shot of my life with one hand, and my left one at that.
It wasn't the left hand that mattered so much. It was using the left eye that gave me pause. The boxes of explosives under the bridge were only two feet wide, and they were over a mile away. Brunhilda tucked uncomfortably into my left shoulder, I lined it the shot up three times, and each time I knew I'd miss.
All I had to do was hit one of them and all ten would go up, but that didn’t mean I could actually do it.
I'm a grown man, true, but I began to sob in frustration as the convoy started over that bridge. If they made it across, it would be that much worse for Denver.
I shook my head to clear it, let out a grunt and sent all my emotions out with it.
Damn Chinese already had all of California and most of the east coast. There was no way I was letting them waltz into Denver, too.
Pulling my right arm straight along the barrel, I tore a stretch of duct tape off my gear and taped my arm to the muzzle. Switching shoulders meant switching eyes. The fit wasn’t perfect, but she was steady, and her butt felt familiar pressed into my right shoulder.
I lined up the shot with my right eye, holding Brunhilda's trigger in my left hand. I brought my breathing under control.
The wind would throw the shot two hairs wide left, according to the data readout in my scope. I aimed two hairs wide right, and just over three hairs high for the distance. The Chinese had just started over that bridge, a line of mechanized cavalry ten miles long behind them.
Holding my breath and keeping on target, I slowly squeezed the trigger.
I never anticipate the trigger squeeze. A good shot should always be a surprise.
It was a surprise alright. Brunhilda knocked me back about three feet. I landed on the ground with my ears ringing, and slammed my bad elbow down onto the pavement, probably the only pavement clear of snow on that entire mountain.
The pain blinded me. I shouted out in agony as I tore the tape off the muzzle and clutched at my arm. Over my cries of pain and through my ringing ears, I heard the rumbling thunder of TNT exploding in the distance, and my cries of pain became shouts of joy.
"Yah-ha-haaa! Yes! Yes, praise the Lord! Praise, the freakin' Lord!"
Hell barked. Then he trotted over and began licking my face.
"Good dog, Hell. Ha-ha...Yes, 'ats a good boy." I scratched him behind his ear. "Yes, Daddy loves you too!”